MOUNT VERNON — The beauty of nature and wildlife always draws the spectator. For some, a few wild birds on the property here and there is no problem, but when hundreds of Canada geese flock to the family pond or lake, things are no longer idealistic.
“I get a few complaints in springtime as far as Canada geese leaving piles around people’s ponds,” said Mike Miller, wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “But wildlife problems are all in the eye of the beholder. ... But as far as ‘manure around the ponds’ yes, in the springtime I get that.”
“There are different processes to deal with these problems and complaints; generally it starts with doing harassment techniques at the right time of the year, and it can eventually lead up to lethal control, as far as the property owner receiving a permit from us to get rid of the geese permanently. At least the ones that are there,” he said.
Miller said he doesn’t usually get complaints about Canada geese during the winter.
“But it just depends on what the problem is and what they have done in the past to alleviate the problems. Here, over the last year, I haven’t had a goose complaint since last July. At Beam Lake I did my goose survey, and I think I counted a little over a thousand geese there, and I know Apple Valley has a large number of Canada geese up there,” he said. “Right now, wherever you find open waters is where you will find a lot of geese.”
Beam Lake is a private lake located amid a housing development off of Newark Road and Mills Lane.
“I would estimate that in the last month we’ve had between 400 and 500 geese on this lake at one time,” said Richard Cochran, a property owner on the lake who has estimated that one goose will poop about a pound a day. “You have to be careful with grandchildren running around the lawn, they’re noisy and I think there are some health concerns with geese; they did not migrate.”
Miller said that some geese do go south for the winter, but they only go as far as they have to in order to find a good roosting location and available food source.
The division of wildlife advises against feeding the geese due to many problems it could cause.
“They used to be a rarity, kind of like deer, but they are not so cute any more,” said Cochran, who also said he does not feed the geese. “They were beautiful birds to have around when there was only a dozen or two around, but when you start to count them in the hundreds, they can almost cover a vacant lot.”
Cochran, who has been dealing with the geese overpopulation for about five years, has tried several methods to keep the birds away, but he said they are very smart.
“Whatever deterrents you throw out there, if you don’t change [the method] — something will work for a while like a hawk decoy or something they don’t like or something noisy— but after a while they learn it’s not a threat. It has been very difficult,” he said.
“About the only thing that you can really do is make it very unattractive for the geese to be around and that is very difficult on a lake this big because you just can’t do that,” he added.
Another problem with the birds is the noise. With hundreds of birds around the property, communication becomes a chorus rather than a whisper. The Canadian geese tend to make sounds all night long, said Cochran, and with so many of them around his property, they always tend to communicate something, so it is always very noisy.
“Between them being dirty and noisy, and they are threatening to some smaller people, especially doing their nesting season, they can be intimidating,” he said.
Cochran said he doesn’t want to kill the geese, but would like to find a solution to the problem.
The geese causes other hazards to the neighbors of Mills Lane.
“These geese will go across the road into other peoples’ yards. They are not restricted to 10 to 15 feet of the shore — they wander all around looking for places to graze; they eat grass,” he said. “It is the quantity that just is outrageous.”
“As of right now Canada goose season is still in for the south zone, with a daily bag limit of two Canada geese,” said Miller, adding that the season ends Jan. 25.
“Right now, the best thing to do is harass them — go out there and chase them off [the property]. You can use an air horn, shell crackers, a dog, things like that; right now, that is the best they can do.
“And if there is any feed, stop all feeding, but to harass them it has to be a constant thing because you just can’t do it once. You have to spend time, it is a time consuming thing to do,” he added.
February is a crucial time to start harassing Canada geese if they are a nuisance.
“As soon as the ice is off and it starts to warm up, Canada geese will break into pairs and they will go to where they are going to have their young,” said Miller. “Once they have their babies, there are a lot more regulations in dealing with them if you don’t want them there.”
During this time period, the geese can be aggressive in protecting the nest, Miller said, although an adult Canada goose can’t physically hurt a human being.
“It just all depends on the person. Some people like to have them around and some people don’t. For most people, it is probably fine to have one or two, but to have 100 would be too many,” said Miller.
Although geese are known to adapt to their surroundings, the Knox County Park District has found that they don’t like places where predators and other dangers can’t be seen.
“Our main pond is at Wolf Run Regional Park; we really haven’t had a problem,” said Kim Marshall, director of the Knox County Park District. “I think part of the reason we haven’t encountered a problem with geese is that we tend to keep tall vegetative cover around the pond and the deal with geese — one of ways you can actually manage geese in using your pond or on a golf course is geese feel really uncomfortable when they can’t see — which is why tall grass, shrubs and things like that geese feel really uncomfortable in those situations.”
“There are ways to deal with it, and it is best to start now. It is best to call and get information on how to deal with the problem now before it starts, particularly in the spring time,” said Miller.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resource Web site states that Canada geese are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Ohio State Law, so before thinking of ways to remove the bird from the property, call the Ohio Department of Wildlife to find out the restrictions and permits needed in order to safely remove the animal from the premises. It is illegal for a person, agency or organization to take or attempt to take, (pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect), any bird, nest, or egg outside of the regular hunting season without special permit from the Ohio Department of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.
For more information, visit www.odnr.com or call the district wildlife office at (614) 644-3925.